Cutters bullpen struggles again

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Williamsport’s Jonathan Guzman celebrates after scoring from second base on a base hit in the second inning on Saturday at Bowman Field.

It should have been the second out of a decisive eighth inning. It should have provided Austin Ross with an opening to escape further damage.

Instead, Alec Bohm’s throw to the plate bounced off the glove of catcher Jesse Wilkening and rolled to the backstop. Wilkening lay on the plate as State College baserunner Wadye Ynfante and he tried to untangle. Another run scored.

An inning which started with a three-run Williamsport Crosscutters lead finished with a two-run Crosscutters deficit. Eight of the first nine State College hitters in that fateful eighth inning reached base with five scoring as the Spikes took the rubber match of the three-game series Saturday night, 9-7, at Bowman Field.

It was the second consecutive night the Williamsport bullpen failed to hold an early Cutters lead. It was the fifth win for State College, four of which have come at the hands of the Cutters.

With the loss, Williamsport fell to 6-4 when leading after seven innings. The rest of the league combined is 78-6 when leading after seven innings.

“It’s a tough play at home,” Cutters manager Pat Borders said. “The ball was sailing a bit into the runner. It’s a tough play. It can be made, but it’s not an easy one.”

Williamsport had been very good defensively all season prior to last night’s game. Its 11 errors through the first 13 games were the second-fewest in the New York-Penn League. But the Crosscutters committed a season-high four errors last night, including the one charged to Wilkening for missing on Bohm’s throw to the plate.

State College scored in two of the three innings in which Williamsport made an error. The only time it didn’t, Tyler Carr induced a fly out to strand a runner on second base.

Wilkening was charged with a throwing error on a stolen base attempt in the fifth inning which set up Stanley Espinal for an RBI single which gave the Spikes a 4-3 lead. A night after coming up with a walk-off two-run single, Espinal drove in three runs for the Spikes last night.

“It’s one of those nights,” Borders said. “Normally they’re really disciplined and do well, but they didn’t do it tonight. But they’re young and they have to grow.”

The defensive lapses and control issues plaguing the bullpen for the second consecutive night (five walks in 5 1/3 innings) again overshadowed another stellar performance from the Cutters’ offense, which pounded out 12 hits. Each Williamsport started recorded at least one hit and Ben Pelletier, Jonathan Guzman and Brayan Gonzalez each had a pair.

Those three all came up clutch in a four-run sixth inning which saw Williamsport turn a 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 lead. Pelletier’s hot shot to third base with a runner on third was mishandled and allowed Danny Mayer to score the tying run. Two batters later Guzman tripled into the right-field corner on a two-strike pitch to drive in Pelletier. Gonzalez followed with an RBI single and Wilkening doubled off the left-field wall for his first hit and RBI as a Crosscutters.

Williamsport put up a pair of crooked numbers last night. It scored three runs in the first inning on a Guzman RBI double and a Gonzalez two-run single.

“I think if you can start the inning with a hit, a guy on base, the whole team is going to follow,” said Pelletier, who upped his average to .256. “We’re like that. And I think everyone stays confident. There’s a few new guys and they’re confident, too.”

“They’re fun to watch,” Borders said. “We get doubles, triples and the home runs are coming. It’s going to be exciting here and I expect them to keep growing.”

Borders pointed to Saturday’s loss as a chance to learn. He said it’s part of Minor League Baseball to have nights like last night. But as long as the players use it to learn, it can help them down the road.

“It’s the only way they develop and learn to handle the adversity and the pressure situations,” Borders said. “They say you need X amount of at-bats to refine yourself and get to the big leagues. But you need X amount of mistakes, too, to have a database to pull from. They’re filling their database. This is what you do in the minor leagues.”